The Rituals and Traditions Associated With India’s Union Budget
The Union Budget, which will be announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday, 1 February, has many associated traditions. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Halwa Ceremony
One of the most prominent traditions associated with the Union Budget is the halwa ceremony.
Around 10 days ahead of the Budget presentation, halwa is prepared for Finance Ministry officials concerned with the Budget preparation. After the ceremony, these officials are locked away the North Block. They are let out only before the presentation starts.
The printing of the Budget documents starts after this ceremony.
The Budget Briefcase
The tradition of carrying the Budget documents in a briefcase can be traced back to the British, who carried a Budget Box instead. The word ‘budget’ comes from the French word 'bougette', meaning ‘little bag’.
Red is usually the chosen colour for the briefcase.
Printing of the Budget Documents
The Budget documents used to be printed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, but they were leaked in 1950. After that, the printing was shifted to Minto Road in the capital.
However, since 1980, a special government press in North Block is used to print the documents.
The Date and Time of Budget Announcement
Until 1999, the Budget used to be announced at 5 pm on the last working day of February. In 1999, then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha changed the modus operandi by announcing the Budget at 11 am.
In 2016, instead of announcing the Budget on the last working day of February, Jaitley did it on 1 February. The new tradition is likely to continue.
This year, the Budget, in view of upcoming Assembly polls in eight states – including three major states ruled by the BJP – and general elections next year, may see new rural schemes and step up funding to existing programmes like MNREGA, rural housing, irrigation projects and crop insurance.
With the recent elections in Gujarat indicating erosion of the BJP's rural vote base, Jaitley may also unveil incentives for the farm sector. Small businesses, which have traditionally formed the core support base of the BJP, too may get some sops to ease pain caused by the chaotic rollout of GST and demonetisation.